Cars, Beautiful Cars!

CarCutie80I especially loved the two toned models of cars in Cuba – so colorful and fun. Keeping these classics running is an incredible feat, given the restrictions Cubans face. The mechanics have utilized about everything imaginable to keep them on the road. Candy colored paint jobs, gleaming chrome, plush upholstery – these beauties are truly a work of art.


Central Trinidad, Cuba

In Trinidad, bright combinations of pastel colors are the rage; it looked a bit like a street scene from Disneyland in parts. The main plaza is grand, ringed with little stores and makeshift shops tucked in the front roomsDSCN1740 of people’s ground level homes. While walking through a little marketplace outdoors, every shopkeeper loudly beckoned me to stop and see their wonderful goods, “Great prices, lady!!!!”  I´m asked for my shirt once or twice, my bandana several times – one old sweet lady even mimes that she would like me to give her some body lotion for her arms, like I’m a walking Walgreens.


Toys and Boys

paratrooperThe neighborhood kids played with nearly anything in Cuba. Looking down on the stoop, I saw a children’s toy box (literally a battered cardboard box with its sad selection of  broken dolls, bits of plastic and orphaned Lego blocks and I cringed thinking of the incredible abundance of toys and games that my own children had had. As I watched a trio of musicians strike up the familiar Cuban beat, a pair of young boys played contentedly in the street with two small plastic army men, tossing them up and down the street, chasing them and delighting in their wild acrobatics. Simple pleasures. When I go back, I’m bringing a case of plastic parachute jumpers to give away.


Havana Folk Art Museum

Mexican Folk doll smallHavana’s Folk Art Museum had an exhibition of folk art dolls from Latin America on display, and this beauty from Mexico caught my eye.
Free museums (or low cost) ones were plentiful in Cuba; many even came with a private tour guide who were delighted with a nice tip after they showed you around. It’s wonderful seeing old former palatial homes and buildings reused in this manner. There was an archaeology museum also nearby on the waterfront as well as oodles of small art galleries and exhibitions, if you peek in the doors or windows along Cuba street. (Many are not marked too clearly)DSCN1892

Saints like Guadalupe were also represented, and coupled with the beautiful architectural detailing of the building itself, it was quite a striking “find” of a museum. In addition, one wall boasted a collage style mural of Mexican cultural heritage on one side, Cuban on the other. It took up nearly a whole wall and I probably spent 20 minutes just looking at all the colorful imagery and messages.

Often, it is the little places NOT mentioned in the guidebooks that yield the most intimate and surprising discoveries in a city, so wander off the tourist path and look for them!


Cuban Dollies at the Prado

DSCN1361What a little cutie patootie she was, posing with her grandma´s dolls for sale in Havana. They have an art fair on Sundays from 10-2 every week on the Prado; it is a great place to see and buy unique and wonderful artwork in all mediums. Bring a bag of art supplies in your luggage to donate to the teachers and the art center association. I brought watercolor palettes, brushes, paper, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, paint, markers, stickers and more.


Internet in Cuba? Meh…

Etesca Card
Internet usage is fairly new in Cuba, so forget the ease and freedom of wifi in the rest of the world. There are wifi hot spots near big hotels and a few other places. Look for Cubans crouched around the perimeter of a building on their phones and you have it. In all cases, you need to buy a wifi card to use the wifi. This is not an easy task. The Etesca office on Obispo in Havana has a long queue all day long – and you need to bring your passport. Much like an old bank teller window deal, you stand outside and are slowly let in, waiting to buy one hour internet access cards ($2/HR.). Internet cards look like lottery cards, with scratch off passwords or tear off tabs. They will register your passport number when you are issued the cards. A Cuban buddy told me that Cubans can only buy 2 hours at a time and need to stand in line again. (1 hr. +) I’m not sure if the passport registration is to ensure more control over the internet or what, but the Cubans I talked to are sure their usage is monitored and controlled and seemed to think ours might as well. Hard to say – but I certainly kept any outgoing messages on the happy channel. You can also buy them at the upscale hotels much easier, but at probably double the price. 


Cuba Musicians

Cuban Street Musicians

Cuban street musicians are in nearly every barrio playing a variety of instruments from guitars to bongos – even playing the jawbone of a donkey, complete with teeth! Actually, it made a great acoustic sound when they ran a drumstick up and down the rows of teeth. All groups have CDs and the price is gov´t controlled, of course – $10. So buy one for a fabulous souvenir and support local live music!

Buy your copy today! Cuba for Mama: A Daughter’s Journey 2016

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